smoke and mirrors – Charley Barnes

Dr Charley Barnes is a lecturer in Creative Writing at the University of Wolverhampton. She is the author of solo and co-authored pamphlets, one full length collection, titled Lore: Flowers, Folklore, and Footnotes, and she has published several novels under the name Charlotte Barnes. Her Twitter and Instagram handle is @charleyblogs. 

My newly single friend has spent the day at a museum – Jen Feroze

My newly single friend has spent the day at a museum

she tells me, opening another bottle.
She talks about paintings of women weeping
at the dark edge of water; about corsets of pink silk
where tiny metal acrobats swing
on tightened ribs, breast bound;
about the yellow crust of clotted cream in the tearoom.
There are knives there from Italy, she says,
hundreds of years old. The blades are etched with music,
each a different harmony. No one knows who made them.
We drink. Her eyes remain steadfastly dry.

Next morning she is singing
in the kitchen when I wake,
lifting golden curls from the butter dish,
voice sharp enough to cut the light into the sky.

Jen Feroze lives by the sea with her husband and two small sleep thieves. Her work has appeared in Capsule Stories, The Madrigal and The 6ress, among others. She was highly commended in the inaugural Spelt magazine competition. Her first collection, The Colour of Hope, was published in 2020. 

West – Cian Ferriter

West

You took me further west, out past Belmullet,
under a sky of milk and pewter
and blue eggs
in the rusting Mitsubishi Colt
you dubbed the Silver Bullet.

A day’s gallivanting
led us to an off-road inlet,
seaweed marmalading the black shore,
the panel-beaten sea
cresting like blown-free bunting.

You clowned about in rocks,
your parka two sizes too big,
your hands swallowed by its sleeves,
the lightning strips of your legs
earthed in black docs.

I took a photo of you loose
and skittish under a bare hawthorn,
eyes crossed, tongue hanging sideways,
your head lassoed
by the hood’s furry noose.

On the beach near where we stayed,
I fell over attempting a headstand,
surfaced dizzy in the storm-soar
of your laugh, lay on you, eyes closed
as the light began to fade.

You took me further west
to where I had not been before,
to where I fell down-ways,
side-ways, headlong
into your hidden, thumping nest.

Cian Ferriter lives in Dublin. He has won and been placed in a number of international poetry competitions. His debut pamphlet Earth’s Black Chute won the Munster Fools for Poetry International Chapbook Competition 2021 and will be published this May.

Wolfstar archery course is in use – Jay Whittaker

Wolfstar archery course is in use

so says the red perspex sign, slung over the gate.
No archers to be seen. Among the trees
targets hold no arrows, only nicks in the worn rings,
scoreboards unchalked. The dog is keen to plunge in
on the trail of deer. I pull her back.

A dead shrew lies on the worn footpath.
What a spot to die or be dropped, dead:
on the prehistoric burial site. At the quarry’s edge.
In Pencraig woods. On this clear day,
views across villages where witches were burned.

The archery course is not in use. Nor the quarry,
nor the graves. Just this path, tracing the ancient heart.

Jay Whittaker lives and works in Edinburgh. She has published two collections with Cinnamon Press, Sweet Anaesthetist (2020) and Wristwatch (Scottish Poetry Book of the Year 2018, Saltire Society Literary Awards). Other credits include the recent Bloodaxe anthology, Staying Human.     www.jaywhittaker.uk / @jaywhittapoet

Make Good Once More – Catherine O’ Neill

Make Good Once More

He lays a cheek upon the finish,
slimmed eye slips over the undimpled divide,
a nod, gathering tools,
slinks back with pride

Yellowed wall,
blemished family carvings,
He covers, makes good,
once more
absorb anew echoes of love,
render-muffle heartsores.

Come fresh dents, come cuts,
into its smoothness,
with words, fist and laughing fall.

Time will bring another
smoother to mask
tales left on this wall.

Perhaps a cheek will lie upon its finish,
judging eye make right once more,
untrap old stories, greet new ones,

close all windows, lock tight the door.

Catherine O’Neill had a play staged at Live Theatre; shortlisted by Streetcake Experimental Writing Prize; Northern Gravy ~ poetry; short stories on BBC Radio, HOLYFLEA!; monologue ‘Keep Granny’s Clock’ on YouTube; tweets and reviews for Word Factory, and Dishsoap Quarterly. 

The Imposter – Catherine Redford

The Imposter

At first it was easy. I cloaked myself in the shroud
of his name, took up his old trousers with some tape
I lifted from the haberdashers on the corner. His car
was a manual, which took some getting used to. Not
one to be defeated, I levered forward the seat and
drove to his mother’s one Sunday afternoon.
It’s interesting that I knew the way.

The old woman had rheumy eyes, faded and
watering. Should I read that as significant? Offer
her to you as an oracle? Her cardigan was on
inside out. She nudged me with her nose as if
I were a blind puppy, knew the scent was off
yet kept me in her nest regardless – the deception
suited us both. But the flotsam started to bump

around me in the darkness before too long.
An ex-lover got in touch and she’d locked me in her
attic before I understood her reheated obsession.
I had to plead a case of fleeting genius when asked
to write a new forward to the book that made
my name. It goes without saying that crowds
flocked to see me, risen again, the stumbling miracle.
The limelight came to taste like chalk, clagging my
mouth, neutralising the thrill of return. I visited

his grave one autumn evening, part macabre curiosity,
part penance. Maybe to speak to him: ask for forgiveness
and the passcode for his phone. Before I knew it I had
lowered myself in, soil under fingernails, beneath tongue.
Burying myself in the relief of being unknown, I closed
my eyes in the confines of the coffin,
rang the bell, and waited.

Catherine Redford lives in the West Midlands. Her poetry has been awarded Highly Commended in the Sussex Poetry Competition and has been shortlisted for the Martin Starkie Prize. Twitter: @C_Redford_ 

The Haven: February – Robert Nisbet

The Haven: February

They drove her to the front, overlooking the Haven,
after she’d seen the specialist.
The Haven, across its miles of width, was still,
the water unruffled by wind, rippling little
on the greyest of afternoons.

Soon after three o’clock, quite unexpectedly,
a rod of sun pushed firmly down through cloud,
lighting hedges and rooftops on the Pembroke side.
Farm sheds, church steeple, brightly depicted.
Only over twenty minutes did the ripple
of sunlight edge across the water,
till their side also was in sun.

They’d drive her there again maybe, often,
while she came to terms with things.

Robert Nisbet is a Welsh poet whose work has appeared widely in Britain and the USA. He won the Prole Pamphlet Competition in 2017 with Robeson, Fitzgerald and Other Heroes. In the USA he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize four times in the last three years.

Even Galaxies Consume Smaller Galaxies – Lacie Semenovich

Even Galaxies Consume Smaller Galaxies

Yellow squash and zucchini will burn
your tongue. If he starts to write poetry,
dump him. Answer your belly’s hunger.
Bananas fall to the ground, brown and bruised.

Hold your tongue if he starts to write poetry,
let him wonder at your number in the bathroom stall
and the bananas falling to the ground. Brown and bruised
hike your skirt for the next available painter.

Let him wonder at your number in the bathroom stall,
let him suspect the fiction writer down the street.
Hike your skirt for the next available painter
and piss all over canvas like turpentine.

Let him suspect the fiction writer down the street,
see metaphors looming over yield signs. Wear yellow,
and piss all over canvas like turpentine,
watch painted breasts run in darkening twists and bows.

See metaphors looming over yield signs. Wear yellow
in strip clubs of black and grey. Let lust consume you
watching painted breasts. Run in darkening twists and bows
toward your first home, like tracing the lines of your palm.

In strip clubs of black and grey let lust consume you.
Yellow squash and zucchini will burn
like your first home. Read the lines of your palm.
Dump him. Listen to your belly’s hunger.

Lacie Semenovich is a poet and fiction writer living in Cleveland, Ohio, USA.  Her work has appeared in B O D Y, Sheila-Na-Gig online, QwertyChiron Review, and The Best Small Fictions 2020.  She is the author of a chapbook, Legacies.

Living Garment – Matthew M. C. Smith

Living Garment

At this moment, when we’re alone,
we bring out the living garment and hold it to the light
witnessing, still, its lustre of yesteryear.

We don’t know how we made it, how it came to be.
We see its threadbare elbow, an unstitched seam,
a cuff that frayed itself to thread, unravelling.

And we look closely at threads. How they fur between finger and thumb,
their loose microscopic weave; how strands hold in the twist
noting differences in colour. Even in darkness, a stitch gleams

with any gifting photon. We count on thread, stitches,
textured to a weave holding together our living garment.

Matthew M. C. Smith is a Welsh poet, published in Barren Magazine, The Lonely Crowd and Icefloe Press. He one half of the Dylan Thomas Birthplace podcast and editor of Black Bough poetry. Twitter: @MatthewMCSmith Insta: @smithmattpoet Also on FB.

Who? – Beth McDonough

Who?

Aye. Ye do. She pops in quite often.
The wumman wi the handicapped son.
Sometimes he shouts oot during Mass – what a laugh!
Canon doesnae mind of course – the young lad says things
we cannae quite make oot. Funny, even so.
But that’s ok. God’s fine wi fun. Bless them aa.
They say God gies you nuthing ye cannae manage.
Eh believe that too. They’re special, folk like that.
They’re verra nice. Usually they sit
twa pews up frae Mr McNee the St James heedie
and Susie, his docter wife. She knit s such lovely hats.
Somewhere near to Jean. Jean frae the cafe at the docks.
Ken she’s bought a new caravan at Inver?
He’s getting right big now. Bigger than her. And strong.
But they urr strong, urren’t they? The handicapped.
When they decide to go, they damned well will!
Well, must be hard. He’s gettin a gey big lad.
Eh see them (her an her man), catch him
by the rucksack straps when he’s breengin for the front.
He wears yon pack a lot. No, Eh’ve no idea why.
Must be a struggle in that hoose. But bless them aa.
Lovely folk. Been in this Parish for, uh… years.
In fact they had him Baptised here.
I see he takes Communion now. Oh bless.
God is good. Part of oor Church femily.
Aabuddy kens his name. We aye say hello.
Never make a difference. Ken.
I see her recently daein stewardin duty.
The young lad isnae ayeways there.
It’s guid they get a break.
Eh like to ask her fur her son. Ken she’s pleased.
You ken her fine. The wumman wi the handicapped son.

Beth McDonough’s poetry is widely anthologised and published in MagmaGutter and elsewhere. Lamping for pickled fish is published by 4Word. She swims year round in the Tay, foraging nearby.